A National Public Radio news story broadcast this morning provides more compelling evidence that Florida’s so-called “red flag” law is working well to place roadblocks in the path of individuals prone to commit murder and/or suicide. The story reports that the bipartisan bill, which was passed in the aftermath of the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has resulted in more than 2,500 orders to temporarily remove weapons from the possession of potentially dangerous individuals. Judges have been issuing them at the rate of nearly five per day. This is from “Florida Could Serve As Example For Lawmakers Considering Red Flag Laws”:
Bob Gualtieri, the sheriff in Pinellas County, Fla., which has issued more than 350 risk protection orders, believes the red flag law is something Florida has needed for a long time. Before, even if someone was found to be mentally ill, he says police couldn’t take their guns. This law changes, and gives police a tool for dealing with people “that have said things, that have done things, exhibited behaviors that rise to the level of concern.”
Once the order is in place, Gualtieri says, “They can’t run out and buy guns, acquire guns. Because you’re prohibited from possessing, from owning or purchasing under a risk protection order. So, it’s a big deal.”
While the law is clearly not perfect — judges express concerns, for instance, about the challenge of issuing orders based on predictions of possible human behavior — the law gets good reviews in many places. what’s more, it became law without active opposition from the NRA.
The largest number of risk protection orders, more than 380, have been issued in Polk County, an area with no major cities and a population of some 700,000. Perhaps surprisingly, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is an outspoken supporter of gun rights.
“Yeah I’m a huge second amendment person,” Judd said. “I certainly believe those that are not mentally ill and have not had a felony conviction have the right to possess firearms.”
The NRA hasn’t actively opposed the red flag law here. Judd, a card-carrying member says the law requires a person to surrender their firearms to police or to a family member who agrees to keep them in a secure location. But it’s only temporary. For Judd, that’s an important distinction.
“The risk protection order does not allow the government to seize your firearms,” he said. “It’s more or less a cooling off period.”
While such a law is far from all that is needed, the experience in Florida ought to send a strong message to Republican legislative leaders in North Carolina that they can and should stop their blockade of a similar proposal by Durham state Rep. Marcia Morey.